A man who was hanging from a harness beneath Brisbane’s Story Bridge has climbed back to the bridge deck and been taken into police custody.
Officers were called to the bridge just after 5.50am on Tuesday to find climate protester Paul Jukes, 49, swinging from a makeshift harness about 10 metres below the bridge deck and 50 metres above the river.
Mr Jukes was demanding Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner declare a climate emergency.
He had initially said he was prepared to stay “as long as it takes”, having packed several days’ worth of supplies, but changed his plan when he heard police were planning to remove him.
“I am going to climb out of here to save police the trouble. They’ve talked to me and when they come back they are bringing me the safety gear they feel they need and then I’ll climb out,” he said.
“I was prepared to stay here as long as I could but I’m not going to be here much longer.
“Instead of replying to my request, the Premier would prefer to send the police to come get me out.
“I don’t want her to feel she can’t declare a climate emergency because she’s giving in to me – it’s not about me, it’s a moral issue.”
Mr Jukes had spent several hours lying in a suspended hammock, surrounded by Extinction Rebellion and climate emergency flags.
But he also distanced himself from the movement.
“I am not a huge supporter of Extinction Rebellion myself, to be honest, but it does have something no one else has, but it’s a vehicle for people to create autonomous actions like I’m doing.
“I am not really expecting I’ll go to jail. I’ve caused no damage but I’m willing to cop whatever they throw at me.”
The left lane inbound on the Story Bridge was closed but has since been reopened as officers attempt to negotiate with Mr Jukes.
Honestly, enjoying our rights in Australia to safely protest does not give you the right to act like a moron and tie up valuable emergency services and @QldPolice @QldAmbulance Not sure affecting good people going about their business does anything but demonstrate immaturity pic.twitter.com/gfCvpgHVST
— Dr Stephen Rashford (@QASMedDirector) October 7, 2019
Queensland Ambulance Service medical director Stephen Rashford photographed the scene from a distance, describing it as “a waste of valuable emergency services”.
“Honestly, enjoying our rights in Australia to safely protest does not give you the right to act like a moron and tie up valuable emergency services,” he said in a tweet.
“Not sure affecting good people going about their business does anything but demonstrate immaturity.”
Extinction Rebellion spokeswoman Laura Harland confirmed a member of the group was responsible but said the act was not part of the larger, planned protests organised in Brisbane this week.
“The group is an autonomous, decentralised movement,” she said.
“Most actions, everyone in the movement isn’t going to know about. [This protest has been] organised by a smaller group [within Extinction Rebellion].”
Personal connection to cause
Earlier, Mr Jukes, an engineer from Airlie Beach, said he had 30 years’ experience as a rock climber and felt safe.
He said he suffered a personal loss due to climate change when his late wife’s memorial was destroyed in the recent Binna Burra bushfires.
“She passed away when my daughters were very young. She asked her ashes be scattered in Lamington National Park and a memorial was set up and it just burnt,” he said.
“My daughters have lost that connection to their mother.”
A Premier’s office spokesperson said Ms Palaszczuk would be briefed by police on Tuesday afternoon and would not make any official comment on the day’s protest action before then.
More protests across Brisbane
Police were also called to other protests in Brisbane’s CBD on Tuesday.
Ms Harland said three people had locked themselves onto barrels filled with concrete in the middle of the intersection of George and Ann streets.
Police arrested several people and all roads were reopened.
Sydney activists dress as bees, stage ‘die-in’
Three protesters have been arrested in Sydney.
Dressed as bees, more than 100 protesters from the Extinction Rebellion group staged a “die-in” at Hyde Park, claiming the insects are under threat due to the human impact on the environment.
The trio arrested by police had been lying on the roadway at the intersection of Market and Elizabeth streets in the CBD.
The group, which included the protest’s organiser, was taken into police custody just after 10am on Tuesday as other protesters marched from the park towards Town Hall.
It follows the arrest of 38 people on Monday in Sydney who laid in the street and chained themselves to objects as part of protests around Central Station and Broadway.
Those arrested are aged between 19 and 75 and have been charged with failing to comply with police direction.
Melbourne protesters ‘not here to spoil everyone’s day’
In Melbourne, core members of Extinction Rebellion camped out in Carlton Gardens in the city’s north overnight on Monday before heading back into the CBD.
Spokeswoman Miriam Robinson said the plan was to “swarm” city centre intersections throughout Tuesday.
The protesters split into smaller groups, followed by small teams of police.
“Our intention is not to hold people up for hours and hours and shut the whole city down, we’re not here to spoil everyone’s day, that’s not our reason for being,” Ms Robinson said.
“What we’re trying to do is draw attention to the climate emergency. And unfortunately we’re driven to do things like this, because this is what gets the attention, this is what causes government to respond.
“We’ve done marches, we’ve signed petitions, we’ve written letters, we’ve done all those things, we’ve been doing all those things for decades, and it’s not working.
“Our emissions are still going up, the climate crisis gets worse and worse, temperatures are rising, sea levels are rising.”
Similar demonstrations blocked traffic on Monday night, causing widespread traffic disruptions.
Ten people were arrested at a demonstration at the intersection of the busy Flinders and Swanston streets for failing to obey orders to move on.
Two of those arrested were charged with intentionally obstructing an emergency worker.
Disruptions across Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane by Extinction Rebellion are expected to continue for the rest of the week.